For Mike Szalat, there is no better feeling each cross country season than hearing that St. Edmond has qualified for state.
Not the first time it happened with Julie Drzycimski or again this year when both the Gael girls and boys punched tickets as teams.
St. Edmond will run alongside the best in Class 1A here Saturday inside Kennedy Park at Lakeside Golf Course. The girls race is set for 3:30 p.m., the boys at 4 p.m. and an awards ceremony at 4:50 p.m. to close the unique two-day event.
“When you see the kids that haven’t made it before hear their name called, that’s just such a wonderful feeling,” Szalat said. “To see the elevation in their face, that’s what makes this so unique and it’s what it is all about.”
Five individuals earned a spot in the Top-10 at the state-qualifier including four on the girls side.
Since Szalat took over the program 22 years ago, St. Edmond has had both teams advance to state five times, with the last coming in 2014. This marks the 10th trip for the girls as a team and the 14th for the boys.
“It’s just a great feeling in general,” Szalat said. “And while we are grateful to be running and to have qualified for state, we still have a lot left to accomplish.
“We are going to enjoy the moment, but we are also going to try and make some noise at the same time.”
The SEHS girls lineup consists of Aubrey Bemrich, Hannah Landwehr, Caroline Shelly, Kelli Kersten, Gracie Harvey, Sydney Schulte and Andee Barwin with Jacey Ash the alternate.
“We have a goal of Top-5 and I feel like these girls can achieve that,” Szalat said. “They have had a great year and really ran against some elite runners throughout including Manson Northwest Webster with Maddie Moline. We’ve also seen excellent runners from Iowa Falls-Alden and Hampton-Dumont/CAL this year, so I don’t think they’ll be overwhelmed by the competition.”
Szalat noted that by racing in the North Central Conference “we have really been well-prepared to run at state.”
“We have a great schedule that allows us to test ourselves against elite-level talent,” he added. “I’m excited to see what we can do at state.”
The St. Edmond boys lineup includes Grant Heldorfer, Devon Wirtz, Zach Loerts, Hayden Mayer, Drew Szalat, Aaron Lursen and Ronnie Orres with Sam Mericle the alternate.
“It feels great to be back as a team for the boys,” Szalat said. “Just like the girls, they have been working hard and really wanted to make it back. They’ve got a goal of placing in the Top-10.”